collective bargaining and labor arbitration: an overview
Collective bargaining consists of negotiations between an employer and a group of employees so as to determine the conditions of employment. The result of collective bargaining procedures is a collective agreement. Employees are often represented in bargaining by a union or other labor organization. Collective bargaining is governed by federal and state statutory laws, administrative agency regulations, and judicial decisions. In areas where federal and state law overlap, state laws are preempted. See, U.S. Constitution, Art. VI.
The main body of law governing collective bargaining is the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). It explicitly grants employees the right to collectively bargain and join trade unions. The NLRA was originally enacted by Congress in 1935 under its power to regulate interstate commerce. See, U.S. Constitution Art. I, Section 8. It applies to most private non-agricultural employees and employers engaged in some aspect of interstate commerce. Decisions and regulations of the National Labor Relations Board, which was established by the NLRA, greatly supplement and define the provisions of the act.
The NLRA establishes procedures for the selection of a labor organization to represent a unit of employees in collective bargaining. The act prohibits employers from interfering with this selection. The NLRA requires the employer to bargain with the appointed representative of its employees. It does not require either side to agree to a proposal or make concessions but does establish procedural guidelines on good faith bargaining. Proposals which would violate the NLRA or other laws may not be subject to collective bargaining. The NLRA also establishes regulations on what tactics (e.g. strikes, lock-outs, picketing) each side may employ to further their bargaining objectives.
State laws further regulate collective bargaining and make collective agreements enforceable under state law. They may also provide guidelines for those employers and employees not covered by the NLRA, such as agricultural laborers.
Arbitration is a method of dispute resolution used as an alternative to litigation. It is commonly designated in collective agreements between employers and employees as the way to resolve disputes. The parties select a neutral third party (an arbiter) to hold a formal or informal hearing on the disagreement. The arbiter then issues a decision binding on the parties. Both federal and state law governs the practice of arbitration. While the Federal Arbitration Act, by its own terms, is not applicable to employment contracts, federal courts are increasingly applying the law in labor disputes. Fourty-nine states have adopted the Uniform Arbitration Act (1956) as state law. Thus, the arbitration agreement and decision of the arbiter may be enforceable under state and federal law.
menu of sources
U.S. Constitution and Federal Statutes
- 29 U.S.C. - Labor
- 29 U.S.C., Chapter 7 - Labor Management Relations Act
- 29 U.S.C., Chapter 7, Subchapter II - National Labor Relations Act
- 9 U.S.C. - Federal Arbitration Act
- CRS Annotated Constitution
Federal Agency Regulations
- Code of Federal Regulations: 29 C.F.R. - Dept. of Labor
Federal Judicial Decisions
- U.S. Supreme Court:
- U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals: Recent Decisions on Collective Bargaining
- Uniform Arbitration Act - as enacted in various states
- New York Labor Relations Act - New York Labor Code, Article 20
- New York Labor and Management Improper Practices Act - New York Labor Code, Article 20-A
- California statutes making collective bargaining agreements legally enforceable - California Labor Code Sections 1126-1128
- California statute requiring the state to establish procedures for binding arbitration of certain disputes in the garment industry - California Labor Code §§ 2685 - 2692
- Other State Statutes Dealing with Labor
State Judicial Decisions
- N.Y. Court of Appeals:
- Appellate Decisions from Other States
Conventions and Treaties
- Convention Concerning the Application of the Principles of the Right to Organize and to Bargain Collectively (1949)
Key Internet Sources
- U.S. Department of Labor
- American Arbitration Association
- Cornell University's Institute for Collective Bargaining
- ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law
- Employment Law and HR (Nolo)
- Federal Labor Relations Authority
- Bureau of Labor Statistics Collective Bargaining Agreement Program
- Bureau of Labor Statistics Monthly Labor Review Online (includes index to archived issues)
Useful Offnet (or Subscription - $) Sources
- Good Starting Points in Print: Robert A. Gorman and Matthew W. Finkin, Basic Text on Labor Law - Unionization and Collective Bargaining, West Publishing Company; 2nd ed. (2004)